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Three Tips on Selecting the Right Mediator

If you have never experienced mediation before, looking for a qualified mediator to help you settle a dispute could be a daunting task. Where do you go to look for one and what should you look for in a mediator? In a recent article, the Harvard Law School suggests that apart from getting recommendations from a reputable provider agency (or in the local context, you may want to ask a friend, lawyer, counsellor, or any other professional), you should choose a mediator who possesses the following three key qualities: the ability to build rapport, creativity in the way they approach problem solving, and patience. Three other factors you may wish to consider include: 1. Track record To ensure the best chance of success, choose a mediator who has a proven track record of settling cases. Experienced mediators have the wisdom and expertise to help their clients evaluate their own position realistically, and to help achieve breakthroughs where there have been only impasses. They will also have a tenacious approach that will see them going the extra mile to achieve a settlement. If important, you may also wish to pick a negotiator with specific experience in a certain industry. Some checklist questions you could ask include:
  • How many years has the mediator been practicing?
  • How many cases have they handled? How many resulted in a successful settlement?
  • How many cases similar to yours has the mediator handled?
  • What is the mediator’s professional background?
2. Accreditation As with any service provider, you may wish to evaluate the mediator’s training background and qualifications. While most mediators receive formal classroom-style training, others participate in apprenticeships and mentoring programmes. Though formal training is not the only predictor of a mediator’s level of competence, it is important they they have received accreditation from reputable institutions. When deciding on a suitable mediator, you may also wish to ask the following:
  • How much training has the mediator had? How many hours?
  • How recent was the training?
  • Was their training relevant to the dispute you are involved in?
  • Does the mediator participate in continuing education?
3. Style Find out what values and goals are emphasised in their mediation practice. For example, does the mediator support parties communicating directly with each other? Or does he or she control the interchanges? Mediators should be able to describe their style of mediation and the role they play in the mediation process. Not all mediators adopt the same style and approach. Some use the evaluative approach, others are more facilitative. Yet others adopt a transformative or narrative approach. The best mediators understand when to use the different styles, depending on the dispute in question in order to keep negotiations moving forward. Another aspect of style is whether the mediator uses a caucus, which is a meeting between one of the parties and the mediator without the other party present. Some mediators use a caucus frequently while negotiating, others seldom or never use this procedure. Read more about HMG’s mediators and how their training and experience has enabled them to help their clients as well as earn the respect of their co-mediators. Dora Yip, HMG Research Associate